Our Classroom Economy

There's something about money that just seems to motivate my students a little more than a jolly rancher.  Don't get me wrong, my jolly rancher rewards system is great and something my students live for... but setting up a classroom economy is really proving to be just a little bit better than a jolly rancher here and there.  The best part is that it's not even real money and they still want it!

What made me do this?  I was in a little bit of a rut after teaching virtually for a year.  Not to toot my own horn, but my classroom management had always been good, however going into a new school year with students that had been virtual for a year and a half felt daunting.  I knew in my gut we were going to need something different.  than the usual.  I needed extra tools, ready in my back pocket, in the event that my old classroom management ways started to fail me.  

Secretly, I also wanted to try something new, and what better time than the start of a brand new school year after a year of virtual instruction?  But also, I could also see the benefits of teaching money skills periodically here and there, and how that could make a larger impact on a student than learning how to factor quadratics.  THAT was my main driving force.  

How it works:  At the beginning of the year as while we are setting up our interactive notebooks, the first foldable we added in was all about our classroom economy and how students could earn and lose money from the bank of me!  Now, much to many students disappointment, this money was not real, HOWEVER, there are perks to the fake earnings.


As a class, we talked about the difference between deposits and withdrawals, how to earn and lose money, the importance of keeping a budget and being mindful of the money we do and don't have -- real world conversations that led to many questions!

While I did pre-determine dollar amounts and reasons to win and lose money, our class conversations led to a few more items being added to our banking list.  My students favorite that they determined?  The ULTIMATE jackpot linked to our classroom wheel spinner. 

Similar to working a salary job, my students are paid twice a month, on the 15th and the 30th.  They can earn money by completing all of their homework assignments for the week, going out of their way to do something (like erase the board without being asked), just to name a few.  They can lose money by showing up to class late, through rent payments, bankrupt wheel spins, snack purchases and more!

Students keep track of the amount of money they have in the bank using their digital bank statements!  These digital bank statements are pre-coded and ready for the students to add in their credits and debits.  All they need to do is add in the date and select the reasoning -- the spreadsheet adds the values and does the rest of the work!  All of their spreadsheets are linked to my master spreadsheet, so even though we used google classroom to make a copy for each student, I am able to edit the classroom purchase/credit list and values on my master and it will push to all of the students.  THIS was key to setting up the economy for me.

It's a lot of work is probably the biggest lie attached to a classroom economy.  I'm sure if it's not organized or approached wrong it can be a lot of work.  Did it take a good portion of a class period to talk about and explain?  Yes, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  It ultimately boils down to this:  your students will either do it and love it or they will turn their nose up to it and not do it at all.  They have a responsibility to make sure they are keeping track of their money because the marking period will eventually end and this counts as a small grade, but also, soon enough, rent will be due!

YUP!  I charge rent, and it's due by the first of the month.  The lost skill of writing a check is being practiced in my classroom monthly as students write me a check for taking up classroom space.  

I do keep track of my students banking separately, but this doesn't take hours.  Throughout my classes if I decide to give someone participation $$, I mention it to them and jot it down on my running list.  If someone loses money, I do the same and jot it down.  At the end of the day, I quickly go into my files for each student and add in what I gave and took away from students.  This doesn't take hours, five minutes max.

What supplies do I need?  That's truly up to you.  I provided my students with a foldable of notes explaining the classroom economy and how it works.  I provided my students with a digital bank statement to keep track of their money.  I will give each student a paycheck twice a month (and thank them for coming to class), as well as make sure they have blank checks to write me checks for their rent.  Monetarily, we are at $0 out of pocket for a classroom economy.  

I teach high schoolers and there are a few things they love:  access to an outlet to charge their phone, snacks, MORE SNACKS and mystery prize tickets.  This is where the out of pocket expense comes in, however it's something that I am comfortable with.  If spending money like this is not in your budget, try a Donors Choose project request or an Amazon wishlist for your classroom.  There are ways to get donations for your classroom economy without spending your own money -- be creative!

At the end of the day, the economy is what you and your students choose for it to be.  It's a great way to introduce and practice money skills, a real world real life important skill students will need.  It's a great way to enforce good behavior and habits in the classroom.  And I can tell you my students were pretty excited when they walked into class on the first payday to add their paychecks into their accounts -- that's all the win I need!


Thinking about setting up your own classroom economy?  Here are a few things to take into consideration to make the process a little smoother...

  • What is the purpose or goal of your classroom economy?

  • How will students earn money?  How will students lose money?

  • How will students keep track of the money they have?

  • How will you keep track of the money students have?

  • How will students be held accountable?

  • What supplies will we need to make this happen?

  • How much will this cost me out of pocket -- is this something I can do with minimal cost?